How to Fix Overheating Computers

by J.T. Barett
Overheating damages sensitive computer parts.

Overheating damages sensitive computer parts.

Heat is one of your computer’s worst enemies, causing sudden shutdowns or other serious problems. Generally, poor ventilation is a frequent cause of overheating computers; without fresh air to cool them, internal components become excessively hot, cooking the PC from the inside out. Although you can fix many overheating causes without technical knowledge, others require a trip to the repair shop.

Ensure Good Ventilation

Many tower-style computers have ventilation openings in the front and back. Notebook computers may have vents at the front and back or on the sides. In either case, a computer with blocked openings will overheat, especially with heavy use. The computer may be too close to a wall, blocking the air exhaust in the back. A stack of books or clothes will also block the computer’s vents if it’s leaning against the PC. Ensure that the computer has at least a few unobstructed inches between it and any surrounding objects.

Adjust Room Temperature

Most computers are designed to run in a variety of office conditions including summertime heat; however, an excessively hot room compromises the machine’s ability to cool itself. Even if your computer has no symptoms of overheating, prolonged high temperatures shorten the lifetime of electronic components inside the PC. Turn the air conditioning on in hot weather and make sure the computer is not in the full glare of sunlight. A room that’s comfortably warm for you is safe for computers also.

Thorough Cleaning

The computer’s ventilation system can clog with pet hair, cigarette smoke and household dust, causing it to overheat. To solve this problem, use a vacuum cleaner to clean off any debris blocking the PC’s vents. A can of compressed air is also handy for cleaning computer vents: insert the plastic tube into the nozzle and spray directly where dust and hair has accumulated. A computer that’s been in a dusty environment for several years may require cleaning from a professional technician, as dust can build up on parts inside the PC.

Internal Accessories

As shipped from the factory, computers are equipped to run without overheating. However, add-on and aftermarket parts such as memory and high-performance video cards can contribute significant amounts of heat to a computer. A PC that used to run well but that developed problems after you added accessories may be overheating.

Replace Stuck Fans

Over time, dust can enter your PC’s cooling fans, causing them to eventually stop spinning. When cooling fans fail, the PC overheats. Most cooling fans are replaceable, so your computer can be repaired, although you may need a qualified technician to do the work.

About the Author

Chicago native J.T. Barett has a Bachelor of Science in physics from Northeastern Illinois University and has been writing since 1991. He has contributed to "Foresight Update," a nanotechnology newsletter from the Foresight Institute. He also contributed to the book, "Nanotechnology: Molecular Speculations on Global Abundance."

Photo Credits

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